Punk music is the official art form of anti-cool. Or at least that is what punk icons like the Descendents would lead you to believe. In the span of their 34-year career, the band has thrived off the nerdy maxim of the underdog. Lead-singer Milo Aukerman even lives by the geek playbook — working as a research biochemist for DuPont when he isn’t on tour. On Saturday night at the Fillmore Auditorium, Aukerman traded in his beakers and lab coat for a microphone (but his trademark browline glasses remained).
To a packed legion of punk underlings, opening act Hot Water Music nearly seized Milo’s return to the limelight. Feeding off the crowd’s lionized flattery, the Gainesville, Fla. band roared through an opening set that seemed to end just as it inched toward overdrive. “Jack Of All Trades,” led by Chuck Ragan’s doleful howl and meaty guitar hooks, provided the initial surge. From there, “The Sense” and “Old Rules” offered the type of venom that has made them unflinching tour veterans. “Remedy” was even better — as the crowd chanted along in some sort a ritualistic rite.
Announced by local “American Idol” spoof Magic Cyclops, the Descendents then took the stage and unwittingly tempered the adrenaline. The flat start was not what most expected, but it was mercifully short-lived. “Hope,” from 1982’s “Milo Goes To College,” reversed the momentum and satiated the nostalgia-seekers. “Nothing With You” characterized the band’s knack for catchy pop-punk and showcased the precision of Blasting Room (in nearby Fort Collins) founder Bill Stevenson’s drumming. “I’m The One” and “When I Get Old” were the vintage gems in waiting — and as expected they were goofball masterpieces. Through a double-encore, “Sour Grapes” and “Bikeage” reinforced one certainty: nerds rule the world.
Kris K. Coe is a freelance writer, Denver-native, and regular contributor to Reverb.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.